A light salvaged from a ‘56 Chevy flickered and turned red on the instrument panel above Ray’s head. He turned up to look at it.
“Well that’s not good…” he muttered, intent on- for the moment- not dying. The makeshift spacecraft shuddered and bucked around his small frame, worn canvas straps holding him to a musty old couch. Above Ray’s head, armored by what looked suspiciously like the grate from a barbecue, a haunting red glow slowly built through a small crack in the “hull,” the second hint of the atmosphere quickly thickening beneath his feet. The first hint had been what commercial pilots referred to as “severe turbulence.” Ray liked to think of it as the rough ride that had knocked over his juice.
Jesus sat back, leaning into a plush armchair in the back of an obscure coffee shop in Paris. He held a recycled brown paper coffee cup in his hands, the heat from the double nonfat organic half-caf latte radiating into his skin. He sighed, took a sip, and looked back down to his ‘zine on the parallelism of Nietzsche and Joseph Conrad. Interesting shit, to say the least. The compact bookstore that surrounded him was cozy; reminded him of his flat in Jerusalem. The central air was a nice touch. It droned on as the shopkeeper leaned over a well-polished mahogany counter near the front of the dim store.
Jack Huish stood in the back of a line stretching around the dimly-lit building. His arms folded, he shifted his weight to his right foot and did his best to look like he really didn’t care how long the line was. It was an art, really. Drove the ladies wild, or at least that’s what the pickup book he had read last night had told him. A light breeze ruffled his long black hair. He’d spent hours on it, picking and tugging until he looked straight out of a Japanese cartoon. A single blue streak shot across his eyes. It made vision slightly difficult, but it was all in the name of the girls.
The bus rocks gently beneath my feet. My middle row window seat sways as the driver speeds over another pothole in the otherwise unremarkable road. I stare out into the city, focusing on little details as they fly past. A bird there, a woman with a stroller there; life goes on unimpeded by my melancholy existence.
I turn my attention once again to a girl a few rows ahead of me. Her auburn hair falls gracefully around her narrow shoulders, head leaning against the pane of glass. I think she’s asleep.
Her name’s Susan, and I’ve been riding the bus with her for a while. She moves like a goddess, talks with the voice of a gentle breeze passing through a golden field of daisies, her eyes icy pools of blue in a perfect face. Thin but not gaunt lips grace pale cheeks kissed with the slightest hint of pink. And her eyes, oh her eyes. They’re reminiscent of a winter’s rain. Cold, stormy, and more beautiful than you can possible imagine.
A bump pulls her from her sleepy rapture. She straightens up, looks around. I quickly turn my head back to the window. Just one more look.
I steal a glance in her direction, and our eyes lock. She smiles at me, a gorgeous smile filled with laughter and happiness and seemingly unending compassion. I smile back, a passable impression of Gary Busey. The moment lasts forever. Until, that is, the bus stops at the corner of Elliot and 54th. The doors slide open with a pneumatic hiss. Her seat mate, a vaguely Hispanic man of indiscriminate age, stands and limps down the aisle. She motions with her head for me to join her.
My heart races a steady staccato beat against my ribs. I stand, finding it difficult on an accelerating bus, and drunkenly hobble to her row. She smiles that debilitating, disarming smile again, totally stripping my hastily readied defenses that so many gorgeous women make necessary.
“Why don’t you join me?” She pats the seat jerkily. How can I say no? So I sit, lost in thought and totally unprepared for any type of rational conversation. She sees this and carries on.
“The weather recently has been really good, hasn’t it?” I watch her perfect lips form the sound, trying to look at least somewhat professional. It’s more difficult than you’d assume. My limbs don’t want to cooperate, her radiant beauty short-circuiting my brain.
God she’s wonderful. She looks me in the eyes, that smile still there, still perfect.
“I just wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed meeting you the past few weeks. You’re a really neat guy.”
FUCK. Here it comes, the inevitable bombshell that I should have seen from a mile away She’s going to dump my sorry ass. My eyes fall.
“I love how you dress, and your bravery really inspires me. But-” She pauses to inhale and swallow. I look up at her like a guilty dog caught getting into the pantry. It’s not as if I haven’t been “let down gently” before.
“I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner with me. I’ve been wanting to ask you for a while.”
And that’s it. My head explodes. I look at her, astounded. She smiles and nods inquiringly. I slowly nod back.
She giggles and her eyes light up. I watch this in slow motion, light catching her reddish-brown shining hair and flawless teeth. And then it hits.
I grunt, arm slamming into the seat as my muscles lock. I slump over, face pressed against her supple breasts, legs kicking uselessly into the aisle of the bus. My hand twists over my head, smacking her perfect face with an open palm. I feel a crunch of a broken nose, and warm liquid floods my hair.
She shrieks and squirms under me, fighting against my vise-like grip and dead weight on her chest. I try- I really do- to pull myself together, but that just results in a fruitless waving of extremities.
“GET OFF OF ME!” She screams, the bus driver slamming on the brakes.
“Gahhhhhhhhhhhghggg,” I agree. My muscles still locked, I roll off of her lap, fingers tracing down her perfect form before finally coming to rest in a puddle of what may or may not be my own urine mixed with her blood congealing on the warm floor of the bus.
Cerebral palsy’s a bitch.